A report from the not-for-profit ECRI Institute, a patient-safety and quality-improvement organization, details social media's potential as a public-engagement tool for healthcare organizations but warns that risk management is necessary.
Report highlights promises, perils of social media for healthcare
The 20-page report "Social Media in Healthcare" from the Plymouth Meeting, Pa.-based organization cites a 2011 National Research Corp. survey that found that 41% of roughly 23,000 respondents reported using social media to research healthcare decisions. Facebook and YouTube dominated their social-media selections.
So far, most hospitals use social media "as an extension of their existing marketing and public relations plans"; physicians use the sites also to market themselves and their practices while often mixing in personal information.
"Posts and updates tend to revolve around themes such as sharing news about the organization and its services, sharing general medical news, highlighting the organization's community events, sharing 'success stories,' and doing basic customer outreach and engagement," the ECRI noted.
But the report also cites the efforts of one nurse who compiled a list of 140 possible healthcare-related uses for Twitter, including mundane items such as linking to a hospital news release as well as more exotic deployments, such live-tweeting surgeries, with surgeons dictating from the operating room.
Although the former would need no extensive oversight, the latter will require risk managers "to help develop plans to ensure that appropriate consent or authorization is obtained; that state and federal privacy laws and regulations, including those under HIPAA, are followed; and that plans are in place to terminate the session if complications develop during the procedure," ECRI advised.
ECRI notes that "despite concerns that patients' families may be uncomfortable with sharing of their loved ones' information via Twitter, one family of a pediatric patient welcomed live coverage of her surgery as a way to keep the family informed during the procedure and reduce anxiety in the waiting room."
"Although hospitals can start slowly with social media use—creating a Twitter account, for example, as a way to experiment with and understand social media—they must not do so haphazardly," the ECRI report warned. "A disorganized approach to social media will be obvious to other users and will damage the organization's credibility and reputation."
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